Principles of war applied in business activity
By. Gr (RA) Flavio Ulloa Echeverry
If we want to know if the principles of war are applicable in the business activity we should start by solving what war means. Carl Von Clausewitz said the “war is an act of violence to force the adversary to do our will”. This act contains a series of activities aimed at fulfilling this political goal that pretends to have the preponderance of the national interest over those who oppose.
The business activity also seeks to contrast the interest of one company over the interests of others in the market arena. Ultimately, companies want to place their products and services to potential customers, with a competitive advantage over their competitors.
So, if we review the principles of war, it is possible to find some applicability of them in the business activity and above for all those managers who day by day are faced with the decision making that entails the competitive advantage.
There has always been a discussion of which of them are the most important, in this occasion we will see the nine most common in the military theory, these are: objective, offensive, simplicity, mass, economy of force, maneuver, unity of command, security and surprise.
Objective: “Lead all military operations towards a clearly defined, decisive and realistic goal. The highest military purpose in the war is the destruction of the enemy’s ability to combat and its will to do it”.
Companies also have to be clear about the objective they want to obtain in a determinate time, which must characterize for being challenging, measurable and realistic. The definition of the objective also must be articulated in strategic, tactical and operational levels of the company.
According to different perspectives of the company it is possible to define more than one objective. For example, we can define objectives from financial perspective, clients, market, technology, quality, capabilities, etc. At this point the most important thing is that the objectives are articulated in the different levels and that all efforts focus in achievement it.
Offensive: “Capture, retain and exploit the initiative”. Is act before react, this defines operations time, place, purpose, scope, intensity and rhythm.
We also can define this principal as keep business initiative. It refers to always keep ahead from the expectative of market, clients, competitors, emerging markets, new prospects, the provider network and the industry.
Companies should invest in market intelligence, investigation, development and innovation to get new and better products and services that allow them to keep the competitive advantage.
Simplicity: “avoid unnecessary complexity in the military operation’s organization, preparation, planning and conduct”.
Business activity is really complex because its value chain has many interactions that are surrounded by forces that affect their performance. This is why is necessary make clearly understand plans, activities, orders and instructions in all the value chain, avoiding confusion in the execution and giving the opportunity to everyone in different levels to contribute with creativity.
This also helps to make processes, procedure and instructive easier and more simple to put into practice, allowing to generate a common doctrine and a stronger organizational culture.
Mass: “Focus combat power at the decisive place and moment”
We refer to the efforts of resources, technology and approach attaining the proposed objectives. It is about focusing different units and organizations in the objective achievement, assuring necessary resources.
Now a day, technology use, knowledge, human factor, digital technologies and digital marketing, allow us to multiply company physical capabilities, incrementing this military concept.
Economy of Forces: “Is the distribution and correct use of forces” Everything or almost everything for the principal effort and nothing or almost nothing for the rest.
This principle is about making an appropriate balance in the management of human talent, financial resources, time, equipment, infrastructure and marketing and technological resources, to achieve the objective.
In addition, this principle gives us an alert to not amuse resources in secondary activities or that ones that does not give added value to the company, which doesn’t allow to get a competitive advantage. It is also about keeping an effective cost control strategy.
Maneuver: place the enemy in a position of disadvantage through the flexible application of combat power.
This principle refers to the activities, movements and actions directed to a value generation and a competitive advantage achieve in the market where the company plays. This is about the strategies that are define and executed to achieve the objectives, taking in count the interaction between providers, clients, potential and actual competitors, services and products. This principle is also about the actions, mobility, speed, rhythm and precision as the company performs within the market.
Unity of command: for every object, seek unity of command and unity of effort.
It’s about having one only direction, just one general manager, one leader who funnel all efforts to the objective achievement. Under only one leadership there must be coordination and cooperation of all available forces to undertake activities that allows the achievement of the objective. It also means that her is only one responsible upon which falls the company exit or failure.
Security: Never allow the enemy to acquire unexpected advantage.
This principle consists in preventing that our competitors reach unexpected advantage, either because they use or know our intentions or because we don’t have a situational alert about the market conditions. It means being really well informed about movements and other industrial sector agents that affect the company environment. It is also about the need of protect information, know how, plans, industrial developments and designs, market rates, cost structure and sell strategies.
Surprise: Strike the enemy at time or place or in the way for which he is unprepared.
It means acting stealthily in such a way that our competitors do not know our intentions. Consists to keep in secret a product and services launch to the market. We also must be always checking the cost structure and actualizing the characteristics of a service or product, avoiding competitors realize about it.
Usually these principles are accepted and have been proven throughout history. They should not be mechanically or rigidly way applied, but they require a leader good judgment in its application. These principles are very value guides, if we ignore about them an unnecessary risk can be generated in the business activity. These principles can be really useful for those who make decisions in different levels of the organization.